3 November 2007

Darwin's bulldog flying lemur

On 30th June 1860, just over six months after the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species..., the so-called "Great Debate" between Samuel "Soapy Sam" Wilberforce and Thomas "Darwin's Bulldog" Huxley took place at a meeting of the British Association in Oxford. Huxley trounced Wilberforce and scored a big victory for science and reason1. But reader, our story doesn't end there...


SCENE I. A hot and crowded theatre in Oxford. 30th June 1860.
Wilberforce (to Huxley and audience): Pray tell me, is it through your grandfather or your grandmother that you claim to be descended from an ape?1

Huxley (in hushed tones to Sir Benjamin Brodie) : The lord hath delivered him into my hands.1

Huxley (to Wilberforce and audience): I would rather be descended from a monkey than to be connected with a man who uses his great gifts to obscure the truth.1

(Woman in audience faints2)

Robert FitzRoy (shouting from audience and brandishing The Holy Bible): I implore you: have faith in God!2
SCENE II. Science Magazine. 2 November, 2007.
Janecka et al3: Our data show that colugos are the closest living relatives of primates and indicate that their divergence occurred in the Cretaceous.
NOT THE END.

References: 1JR Lucas (1979). Wilberforce and Huxley: A Legendary Encounter. The Historical Journal, 22, 2, pp. 313-330; 2Natural History Biographies. The Natural History Museum website; 3JE Janeka et al (2007). Molecular and Genomic Data Identify the Closest Living Relative of Primates. Science. Vol. 318. no. 5851, pp. 792 - 794.

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